Reptile Care Pointers from Dr. Crawford


Saturday, October 21, 2017 is Reptile Awareness Day. Since Dr. Crawford is our resident reptile vet, we thought our readers might enjoy hearing some of his thoughts about reptiles and their care. So, we sat down with Dr. Crawford this week to ask him some of our most pressing reptile questions.

  1. What motivates you to examine and treat reptiles at Lawndale Veterinary Hospital? When I was a child, I was allergic to dogs and cats but I really liked animals. So reptiles were the only pets I could have. Now, I can enjoy being able to take care of reptiles as a veterinarian.
  2. Do you have a favorite reptile? The prehensile-tailed skink. This skink lives in the Solomon Islands, and it is the largest known existing species of skink.
  3. Are there any reptiles you will not see? Not really, other than venomous or very large reptiles. Having good reptile handlers is key to helping the exam and visit go smoothly.
  4. What advice would you give someone considering a reptile for a pet? It is important to thoroughly research the husbandry requirements, ultimate size, and longevity of the species. Husbandry is the key to reptile care, so you need to feel confident that you understand the needs, and that you can meet those needs. Additionally, can you care for a snake that will ultimately grow to 16 feet in length, or a 6 foot lizard? Will your relatives care for your snake if it outlives you?
  5. Are there special dietary considerations for reptiles? Each species has it’s own special requirements which can range from leafy vegetables, to insects or mollusks, to frogs or rodents. If the dietary considerations are not met, this can create illness in the pet.
  6. What are some “must knows” about reptile housing? The housing will need to have the appropriate amount of space, warmth, and lighting for that particular species. It’s important to remember that each species will have different environmental needs based on the areas they are typically found in nature. When kept as pets, their housing must take this into account so they can thrive and express normal behaviors. For example, if the species is a tree climber, having a taller terrarium with things to climb would be important.
  7. What clues would you look for to know a pet reptile might be sick? Poor appetite, not moving around as much, weight loss, or other changes from the animal’s typical behavior patterns.
  8. What considerations should owners keep in mind when handling their pet reptiles? Always wash hands thoroughly after handling, and use appropriate handling techniques to avoid being bitten.
  9. Are there zoonotic diseases to watch out for with pet reptiles? Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Reptiles carry Salmonella, which is a zoonotic disease. Always wash hands thoroughly after handling, and avoid housing or handling reptiles around food items. The CDC actually recommends that turtles and other reptiles not be kept as pets in houses with young children. The CDC has a resource page with additional tips on helping people stay healthy when keeping reptiles as pets.
  10. Is there anything else you would like to add about reptile selection and care? Always seek help when you get a new reptile. This can help prevent many illness or problems from occurring. Be mindful of where the husbandry information comes from – make sure it is a reputable source.

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine/ Dr. K. Crawford

Photo credit (snake):